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Roman Conquest:

Between the 2nd and 3rd Samnite Wars (304 - 298 BC)


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(Note that the page “Literary Sources” expands on all the classical references in the account below)

Aequan War: Phase 1 (304 - 303 BC)


Yellow dots = Latin colonies founded between the second and third Samnite Wars

Adapted from Linguistic Landscape of Central Italy

According to Livy, the censors of 307 BC, Caius Junius Bubulcus Marcus and Valerius Maximus:

  1. “... built roads through the countryside at the public expense”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 43: 25-6)

It is possible that one of these was the Via Valeria, which extended the Via Tiburtina eastwards from Tibur towards the Adriatic: Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 570) pointed out that, although this hypothesis has been disputed, 307 BC is:

  1. “... precisely the time when we should have expected a road from Rome to the central Abruzzi to be built ... : [its] construction can [reasonably] be connected with: the disaffection of the Aequi in 304 and 302 BC (which it may help to explain); and the subsequent colonisation of Alba Fucens and Carseoli [see below], both of which lay on its route.”

Livy recorded that, in 304 BC: 

  1. The arms of Rome were ... directed against the Aequi, who had been her enemies of old but, for many years past, [albeit] under cover of a peace that they observed but treacherously:

  2. ... before the overthrow of the Hernici, they had repeatedly joined with them in sending assistance to the Samnites;

  3. after the subjugation of the Hernici, almost the entire nation had gone over to the [Samnites], without attempting to disguise their policy; and

  4. when [Romans] had applied to them for reparation after the adoption of the Samnite treaty at Rome [in 304 BC], they had persistently

  5. asserted that the Romans were attempting under threats of war to intimidate them into becoming Roman citizens; and

  6. stressed how the undesirability of such a thing had been shown by the Hernici [in 306 BC], since those who had been permitted to do so [i.e. Aletrium, Verulae, and Ferentinum] had [chosen instead] to retain their own laws ... while those who had not been given an option [i.e., for example, Anagnia] were to have citizenship thrust upon them as a punishment.  ...

  7. [For these reasons], the Roman people decreed that war should be made upon the Aequi”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 45: 5-10). 

It seems that the Aequan army fled at the sight of the Romans, who were able to take some 30 of their cities [all unnamed]:

  1. “Of these, the greater number were dismantled and burnt, and the Aequan name was almost  exterminated.  A triumph was celebrated over the Aequi; and, warned by the example of their downfall, the Marrucini, Marsi, Paeligni, and Frentani sent ambassadors to Rome to sue for peace and friendship.  These nations, at their request, were granted a treaty of alliance”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 45: 17-18). 

Livy recorded that, in 303 BC:

  1. “Colonists were settled at  ... Alba Fucens, [which] was in the country of the Aequi; 6000 colonists were settled there ... The right of citizenship was conferred this year upon the Arpinates [see below] and the Trebulans”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 1: 1-3).

As Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at pp. 39-40) pointed out, scholars generally assume that Trebula here was the Aequan centre of Trebula Suffenas: since. as discussed below, we know that Arpinum was incorporated into the Roman state without voting rights at this point, we might reasonably assume that this was also the case at Trebula Suffenas.  This might underly Cicero’s observation that:

  1. “... maiores nostri Tusculanos, Aequos, Volscos, Sabinos, Hernicos in civitatem etiam acceperunt”, (‘de Officiis’, 1: 35)

  2. “The Tusculans, Aequans, Volscians, Sabines and Hernicians received citizenship from our forefathers”, (my translation).

Sora and Arpinum (305 - 303 BC)

Livy recorded that, in 305 BC:

  1. “The Romans recepta (captured or recaptured) Sora, Arpinum and [the now-unknown] Cesennia from the Samnites”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 44: 16).

Both Sora and Arpinum were in the Liris valley, on territory that had originally belonged to the Volsci.  However, Edward Salmon (referenced below, at p. 191) suggested that:

  1. “By the middle of the 4th century BC, [this valley] was rapidly becoming the Mecca to which the [emerging powers of Rome and Samnium] were inflexibly headed.  ... the Volsci were manifestly in retreat ... and the real question was who was to replace them [in this key strategic area].  It is against this background that the treaty of 354 BC between the Romans and the Samnites is to be set.”

He hypothesised (at pp. 193-4) that the treaty recognised the Liris as the boundary between there respective spheres of influence, in which case:

  1. Sora was fair game for the Romans, who captured in in 345 BC; and

  2. Arpinum, further to the east, had probably been generally in Samnite hands until 305 BC, (the date of its earliest mention in our surviving sources), when (as noted above) it fell to Rome.

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at pp. 585-6) pointed out that:

  1. “Since recepta is used of Sora [which had fallen to Rome in 345 BC but had recently occupied by the in 315-4 BC and in 306-5 BC], it may have the sense ‘recaptured’ here.  However, since recipire can mean just ‘to capture’ , it is possible that the verb is used in two different senses, and that this was the first time that the Romans had held Arpinim.”

Livy noted that, in 303 BC:

  1. “Colonists were settled at Sora ... [which] had been a Volscian town, but the Samnites had occupied it [most recently in 306-5 BC]; 4000 [colonists were now] sent there.  The right of citizenship was conferred this year upon the Arpinates ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 1: 1-3).

The people of Arpinum must have received civitas sine suffragio in 303 BC, since Livy (‘History of Rome’, 38: 36: 9) recorded that, in in 188 BC, it received full citizenship and was assigned to the Cornelia tribe .

Aequan War: Phase 2 (Dictator Year 302/1 BC)


Underlined in red = centre on Aequan territory that was ultimately assigned to the Aniensis

Adapted from Antonio Sciarretta's Toponymy

Unsurprisingly, the Aequi:

  1. “... resented the planting of a colony within their borders, which was to be a stronghold of Roman power.  They therefore made a desperate effort to capture it, but were beaten off by the colonists.  In their weakened condition, it seemed almost incredible that the Aequi could have resumed the war, relying solely upon themselves: this fear of an indefinitely extended war necessitated the appointment of a dictator.  Caius Junius Bubulcus was nominated, and he took the field ... He crushed the Aequi in the very first battle and,  a week later, he returned in triumph to Rome.  There, he dedicated the temple of Salus that he had: vowed as consul [in 311 BC]; and [begun to build] as censor [in 307 BC]”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 1: 6-9). 

Saskia Roselaar (referenced below, at p. 309, entry 18) suggested that much of the territory of the Aequi was confiscated at this point,: Livy did not explicitly say so, but such confiscation id implied by his claim that the people of the Aequan name almost  exterminated.  A number of other considerations point in the same direction: 

  1. As noted above, the Latin colony of Alba Fucens was founded in 303 BC on Aequan territory.

  2. Livy (‘History of Rome’, 10: 9: 14) noted that two new tribes, the Aniensis and the Terentina, were formed in 299 BC.  Lily Ross Taylor (referenced below, at p. 56) pointed out, that the former was clearly named for the Anio valley, which indicates that it was formed for citizens who were settled at this time on what had been Aequan land. 

  3. Livy also recorded the foundation of another Latin colony, Carseoli, on Aequan territory in 298 BC (‘History of Rome’, 10: 13: 1).

  4. When Trebula Suffenas and Carseoli were enfranchised after the Social War, they were both assigned to the Aniensis, as were two other centres that had nucleated on confiscated Aequan land: Afilae and Treba (marked on the map above).

I wonder whether Trebula Suffenas functioned as a Roman prefecture from 303 BC, although that can only be a matter for speculation.

Roman Activity in Umbria (303 - 299 BC)


Adapted from the Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire

As described on the previous page, the Romans had:

  1. agreed an alliance with Camerinum, on the eastern border of Umbria,  in 310/9 BC; and

  2. defeated an Umbrian army at Mevania in 308 BC; and, immediately thereafter

  3. secured an alliance with Ocriculum, which was strategically located at the confluebnce of the Tiber and the Nera rivers, on the southern border of Umbria,. 

Livy next noted Roman activity in Umbria in 303 BC, when:

  1. “... in order that the Romans might not pass a whole year without any military operations, a small expeditionary force was sent into Umbria.  A certain cave was reported to be the rendezvous of a body of freebooters, and from this hiding-place they made armed excursions into the surrounding country.  The Roman troops entered this cave, and many of them were wounded, mostly by stones, owing to the darkness of the place.  At length they discovered another entrance, for there was a passage right through the cave, and both mouths of the cavern were filled up with wood. This was set on fire, and, stifled by the smoke, the bandits, in trying to escape, rushed into the flames and 2,000 perished”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 1: 4-6).

The precise location of this cave is unspecified and the significance of this episode is unclear, but it might have been a prelude to the attack on Nequinum (below).

Fall of Nequinum (300-299 BC)

The first major Roman engagement in Umbria after the battle at Mevania took place at Nequinum (modern Narni), some 15 km northeast of Ocriculum in the Nera valley.  According to Livy, in 300 BC, the consul Quintus Appuleius Pansa:

  1. “.. invested the town of Nequinum in Umbria.  It was situated where [the Latin colony of] Narnia now stands, on high ground that is s steep and precipitous on one side, and it was impossible to take it either by assault or by regular siege works. It was left to the new consuls of 299 BC], Marcus Fulvius Paetus and Titus Manlius Torquatus, to carry the siege to a successful issue”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 9: 8-10)

Livy began his account of the following year by noting that:

  1. “...the siege of Nequinum was dragging slowly on and time was being wasted.  At length two of the townsmen, whose houses abutted on the city wall, made a tunnel, and came by that secret passage to the Roman outposts.  They were conducted to the consul, and undertook to admit a detachment of soldiers within the fortifications and the city walls.  It did not seem right to reject their proposal, nor yet to accept it without circumspection.  [Thus, while] one of them was instructed to conduct two spies through the underground passage, the other was detained as a hostage.  The report of the spies was satisfactory, and 300 soldiers, led by the deserter, entered the city by night and seized the nearest gate.  This was broken open, and the consul with his army took possession of the place without any fighting.  Thus Nequinum passed into the power of Rome.  A colony was sent there as an outpost against the Umbrians, and the place was called Narnia from the river Nar [now Nera].  The army marched back to Rome with a large amount of spoil”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 10: 1-6).

The ‘fasti Triumphales’ record that Marcus Fulvius Paetinus was awarded a triumph over the Samnites and the Nequinates in 299 BC.  Julius Beloch (referenced below, at p. 271) argued that, since the Third Samnite War (see below) had not yet begun, this triumph might well have been against the Sabines rather than the Samnites, and that this signalled the start of a decade of Sabine hostilities with Rome that culminated in their total defeat in 290 BC.  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at pp. 31-3), who did not accept all of Beloch’s rewriting of the history of the 290s BC, nevertheless agreed (at pp. 33-4) that:

  1. “It would [indeed] be surprising if the Sabines had capitulated in just one year, [and] it is [more] likely that the capture of Nequinum [in 299 BC] provoked hostilities [between Rome and] the Sabines.... [This would account for, inter alia,] the very difficult reference to the Samnites in the fasti Triumphales in 299 BC”

Livy (‘Roman History’, 27: 9 - 27:10) identified the status of Narnia by including it among the 30 Latin colonies that existed in 209 BC.  At the time of its foundation, it represented the most northerly Roman presence in peninsular Italy.  Its position on the northern border of the Sabina Tiberina is potentially significant: as noted above, it is possible that the triumphs recorded in the fasti Triumphales in 299 BC were against the Nequinates and the Sabines (rather than the Samnites).  If so, then it is at least possible that the Romans had also suspected these two peoples of pro-Samnite sympathies.  In other words, Livy’s assertion that Narnia served as  “an outpost against the Umbrians” might not have fully captured the strategic significance of its foundation.

Gallic Invasion (299 BC)


Adapted from the Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire

According to Livy, early in 299 BC:

  1. “The Etruscans planned to go to war ... in violation of the truce; but, while they were busy with this project, an enormous army of Gauls invaded their borders ... Putting their trust in money (of which they had great store), they endeavoured to convert the Gauls from enemies into friends, to the end that, uniting the Gallic army with their own, they might fight the Romans.  The barbarians made no objection to an alliance: it was only a question of price.  When this had been agreed upon and received, the Etruscans, having completed the rest of their preparations for the war [with Rome], bade their new allies follow them.  However, the Gauls demurred, [arguing that] they had made no bargain for a war with Rome ... Nevertheless, they offered to take to the field ..., but on one condition: that the Etruscans admit them to a share in their land, where they might settle at last in a permanent home.  Many of the concilia populorum Etruria (councils of the peoples of Etruria) were held to consider this offer, but nothing could be resolved upon, not so much because of their reluctance to see their territory lessened, but rather because they shrank from having ... so savage a race for neighbours.  So the Gauls were dismissed and departed with a vast sum of money, acquired without any toil or risk.  The Romans, who were alarmed by the rumour of a Gallic rising in addition to a war with the Etruscans, lost no time in concluding a treaty with the people of Picenum (‘History of Rome’, 10: 10: 6-12).

Stephen Oakley (2007, at p. 309 conjectured that the Gallic Senones, who had a border with Picenum and who were explicitly mentioned in the context of the Battle of Sentinum in 295 BC (as discussed on the following page), might have been behind this Gallic invasion of Etruria. 

Livy noted that Manlius, who was the consul responsible for Etruria, had fallen off his horse there and died.  The Etruscans, having presumably having paid off the Gauls, took Manlius’ accident:

  1. “... as an omen of the war, plucked up courage and declared that the gods had begun hostilities in their behalf. ... The Senate commanded [Marcus Valerius Corvus Calenus, as suffect consul]  to proceed forthwith to the legions in Etruria.  His arrival so damped the ardour of the Etruscans that none ventured outside their fortifications ... Nor could [Valerius] entice them into giving battle by wasting their lands and firing their buildings”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 11: 1-6).

While this inclusive was rumbled on, Rome received news of trouble in Samnium, at which point:

  1. .”..the Senate's anxiety was diverted, in great measure, from Etruria to the Samnites”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 11: 7-9).

Polybius gave a parallel account that had the Etruscans playing only a minor role in Gallic raid on Roman territory.  According to this account, in 299 BC:

  1. “... when a fresh movement [to cross the Alps] began among the Transalpine Gauls, [the tribes of Cisalpine Gaul], who feared that they would soon have a big [inter-Gallic] war on their hands:

  2. diverted the migrating tribes from their own territory by bribery and by pleading their kinship;

  3. incited them to attack the Romans instead; and

  4. even joined them in this expedition. 

  5. They advanced through Etruria, where the Etruscans also joined them, and, after collecting a quantity of booty, retired quite safely from Roman territory.  But, on reaching home, they fell out with each other about the division of the spoil and succeeded in destroying the greater part of their own forces and of the booty itself.  (This is quite a common event among the Gauls, when they have appropriated their neighbour's property, chiefly owing to their inordinate drinking and excess)”, (‘Histories’, 2: 19: 1-4).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 152) conceded that these accounts are not mutually exclusive:

  1. “Livy’s version looks very much as if it has been garbled by later annalists and it is perhaps preferable to reject it outright.  [In this case], the Etruscans ... helped [the Gauls] to plan a raid on [Roman territory].  This [putative] joint joint expedition [might thus have been] the precursor of the great combined anti Roman armies of 296-5 BC [discussed on the following page].


Read more:

S. Roselaar, “Public Land in the Roman Republic: A Social and Economic History of Ager Publicus in Italy, 396 - 89 BC”, (2010) Oxford

S. Oakley, “A Commentary on Livy, Books VI-X:Volume III: Book X”, 2007 (Oxford)

T. Cornell, “The Beginnings of Rome: Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars (ca. 1000-264 BC)”, (1995) London and New York poi

E. Salmon, “Samnium and the Samnites’, (1967) Cambridge

L. Ross Taylor, “The Voting Districts of the Roman Republic: The 35 Urban and Rural Tribes”, (1960) Rome

K. J. Beloch, “La Conquista Romana della Regione Sabina”, Rivista di Storia Antka e Science Affini, 9 (1904) 269-77 


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